100 Years of Cunard World Cruises

In March 2023, Cunard launched a special photographic exhibition to celebrate a centenary of photography taken aboard their ships. The occasion acknowledges the introduction of onboard photographers, who have been sailing with Cunard’s ships since 1923.

Throughout a century of shipboard photography, many unique moments have been captured aboard Cunard ships. From images of one of the modern Queens visiting a new port of call, to interior shots of the transatlantic liners, to dramatic photographs taken of troops during World War II, photography has captured both joy and danger from the decks of these ships.

The launch of Cunard’s photographic exhibit coincides with the 100th anniversary of their first ever world cruise. Undertaken aboard the Laconia, the voyage departed in late 1922 and sailed through the early months of 1923.

That first Cunard world cruise was undertaken in partnership with American Express. The world cruise sailed completely in the northern hemisphere – venturing only as far south as Panama and Singapore.

However, it did encircle the world, and included transits of both the Panama Canal and Suez Canal. The first Cunard world cruise proved so popular that another Cunard world cruise aboard Samaria set sail in 1923.

Fast forward to the 1970s and Cunard’s world cruise presence was bolstered when their then-flagship QE2 commenced regular world cruises. She was joined on the world cruise circuit by other Cunarders including Sagafjord and later Royal Viking Sun.

Today all three Cunard Queens undertake long duration global voyages. I was lucky enough to sail recently aboard all three Queens as a guest lecturer, speaking about Cunard’s long and illustrious history.

Given the centenary of world cruising as well as the centenary of photography aboard Cunard ships, I thought it would be fun to share with you a few of my best snaps from the three Queens, in the video below:

Image Credit: Laconia CC.0 Public Domain.

World Cruise History FAQ

  • Q: Did Cunard ‘invent’ world cruising?
  • A: No, there were other world cruises before Laconia’s first world cruise. Most of these voyages were undertaken by various different ships, where passengers would book a ‘world cruise’ and sail on numerous vessels between different ports. However there were several attempts at continuous world cruises before Laconia, though none of these were commercial successes.
  • Q: Why is Laconia’s world cruise special?
  • A: Laconia was the first ship to undertake a commercially successful continuous world cruise. This meant that Cunard and its partner American Express were able to successfully complete the entire voyage one one ship, and this success gave them the funds and skill required to plan future world cruises.
  • Q: Did Laconia visit the whole world?
  • A: No. While Laconia did complete a full circumnavigation of the globe, the world cruise did not sail south of the equator. That meant it skipped South America, New Zealand, Australia and Southern Africa.
  • Q: What did passengers do aboard?
  • A: Life on ocean liners of old was very different to cruising today. Passengers were largely left to arrange their own entertainment. However on the world cruise, Cunard and American Express arranged shore excursions for passengers so they could visit and enjoy the local cruise ports.